Researchers discover connection between low oxygen levels and a human gene

September 7, 2017
A depiction of the double helical structure of DNA. Its four coding units (A, T, C, G) are color-coded in pink, orange, purple and yellow. Credit: NHGRI

University of Texas at Arlington researchers have established a link between hypoxia, a condition that reduces the flow of oxygen to tissues, and HOTAIR, a noncoding RNA or molecule that has been implicated in several types of cancer.

RNA, or ribonucleic acid, is present in all living cells. Its primary role is to carry instructions from DNA.

In a study published in the journal Gene this month, Marco Brotto, a professor of nursing at the College of Nursing and Health Innovation, and Subhrangsu Mandal, an associate professor of chemistry, write that helps aid the growth of cancer cells in people with the HOTAIR gene. The paper was co-written with three graduate students from UTA's Department of Chemistry: Arunoday Bhan, Paromita Deb and Nadine Shihabeddin; and Khairul Ansari, a former UTA adjunct faculty in that department. Brotto and Mandal were the paper's senior authors.

Noncoding RNAs are a newly discovered class of molecules that are emerging as a master regulator or facilitator of cancer. In this study, the authors show a connection between Hypoxia and HOTAIR.

"This could have very important implications," said Brotto, the George W. and Hazel M. Jay professor at UTA's College of Nursing and Health Innovation. "We know that with aging, humans have higher probability of cancer, but with aging, humans also have more Hypoxia, because of reduced respiratory capacity."

Hypoxia is a condition in which a person experiences low oxygen. Among other things, oxygen provides nutrition to brain cells, muscle cells, cardiac cells and burns fat. Conditions such as chronic or COPD, pollution, environment causes, climate change and aging are among the biggest causes of Hypoxia, said Brotto.

"Hypoxia is a critical driver of tumor growth," said Mandal, adding that the study offers an opportunity for novel drug treatments of cancer.

Brotto and Mandal have been studying Hypoxia and HOTAIR respectively for more than a decade. Together, they worked on this study for more than two years by performing systematic experiments on different cells in their labs.

Brotto said this study offers hope for the development of a drug to inhibit the development of cancer by targeting HOTAIR.

"In the meantime, we all can do things to stave off hypoxia, such as regular exercise, nutrition and improving our climate conditions," he said.

Anne Bavier, dean of UTA's College of Nursing and Health Innovation, said this study is a boon for the college, the university and the fight against . Advancing health and the human condition is one of one the four pillars of UTA's strategic plan.

"For more than a century, scientists have been taking a sledgehammer at this formidable malady," said Bavier. "Yes, we still have a long way to go but we have also come a long way. This most recent work by Brotto, Mandal and their fellow researchers strikes another important blow against this disease."

Brotto said this study is a good example of why science funding is so important in health care research.

"This discovery was only possible because of continued substantial grant funding," Brotto said. "Otherwise this devastating diseases, which we are very close to finding cures for, we'll never find them and that would be a shame."

Explore further: Study shows exercise, diet could offset effects of malaria

More information: Arunoday Bhan et al. Histone methylase MLL1 coordinates with HIF and regulate lncRNA HOTAIR expression under hypoxia, Gene (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.gene.2017.07.069

Related Stories

Study shows exercise, diet could offset effects of malaria

January 12, 2017
The right amount of diet and exercise can help lessen damage to the heart and skeletal muscles brought on by malaria, according to a new UTA study.

New study links BPA and breast cancer tumor growth

March 6, 2014
UT Arlington biochemists say their newly published study brings researchers a step closer to understanding how the commonly used synthetic compound bisphenol-A, or BPA, may promote breast cancer growth.

Protein to control breast cancer progression identified

July 5, 2017
Switching off a protein produced in breast cancer cells can stop cancer progression, researchers from The University of Queensland have found.

Searching for cancer's fingerprints gives clues to tumour growth

February 25, 2016
A University of Manchester study has shed light on a chain of events that allows tumour cells to thrive in tough environments, identifying potential new ways to diagnose and treat cancer.

The paradoxical roles of well-known cancer genes are mediated by oxygen levels in breast cancer

January 4, 2017
Oxygen deprivation, or hypoxia, has been identified by A*STAR researchers as a key factor in switching the function of major cancer genes from tumor-promoting to tumor-suppressing in a breast cancer subtype, suggesting the ...

Cancer metastasis: The unexpected perils of hypoxia

May 11, 2017
The low oxygen concentrations that prevail in many tumors enhance their propensity to metastasize to other tissues. Researchers at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich led by Professor Heiko Hermeking have now ...

Recommended for you

Forgotten strands of DNA initiate the development of immune cells

September 21, 2017
Intricate human physiological features such as the immune system require exquisite formation and timing to develop properly. Genetic elements must be activated at just the right moment, across vast distances of genomic space.

Genome editing reveals role of gene important for human embryo development

September 20, 2017
Researchers have used genome editing technology to reveal the role of a key gene in human embryos in the first few days of development. This is the first time that genome editing has been used to study gene function in human ...

A piece of the puzzle: Eight autism-related mutations in one gene

September 19, 2017
Scientists have identified a hotspot for autism-related mutations in a single gene.

Scientists identify key regulator of male fertility

September 19, 2017
When it comes to male reproductive fertility, timing is everything. Now scientists are finding new details on how disruption of this timing may contribute to male infertility or congenital illness.

New assay leads to step toward gene therapy for deaf patients

September 18, 2017
Scientists at Oregon State University have taken an important step toward gene therapy for deaf patients by developing a way to better study a large protein essential for hearing and finding a truncated version of it.

Genomic recycling: Ancestral genes take on new roles

September 18, 2017
One often hears about the multitude of genes we have in common with chimps, birds or other living creatures, but such comparisons are sometimes misleading. The shared percentage usually refers only to genes that encode instructions ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.